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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Pope visits Bavarian birthplace
Crowds welcome Pope Benedict in his birthplace of Marktl-am-Inn
Pope Benedict shook hands and blessed babies
Pope Benedict XVI has received an enthusiastic welcome from crowds in the town where he was born, during a visit as part of a six-day trip to Bavaria.

He prayed with his 82-year-old brother in the church where he was baptised as a baby 79 years ago, in the small town of Marktl-am-Inn in southern Germany.

He paused at the house where he spent his first two years, admiring a bronze column showing scenes from his life.

Earlier, in the town of Altoetting, he lamented a global shortage of priests.

Pope Benedict's late afternoon visit to Marktl-am-Inn, a town of 2,700 people about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Munich, lasted about 30 minutes.

Arriving in his limousine to a brass brand and loud cheers, he shook hands and blessed babies among the crowd.

Pope Benedict with brother Georg
The Pope and his brother Georg met and prayed together
He then entered St Oswald's Church to meet his brother, Georg, a retired priest.

The two men paused in prayer for several minutes before the font in which they were both baptised.

The pontiff was then driven in his popemobile to the yellow and white-painted house where his family had lived until he was two years old.

But he says he does not remember living there, and paid more attention to the bronze sculpture which had been erected ahead of his visit.

The house had to be hastily cleaned after it was spattered with blue paint early on Sunday, in an incident which police described as vandalism.

Enthusiastic welcome

Earlier, speaking to seminarians in the town of Altoetting, the Pope bemoaned a shortage of priests in both the developing world and also in the West.

Pope admires bronze column
The Pope admired a bronze column showing scenes from his life
"Among us in Germany and in the vast lands of Russia it is true that a great harvest could be reaped. But there is a lack of people willing to become labourers for God's harvest."

An estimated 70,000 people flocked to the town of 13,000 for an open-air mass in the town's Kapellplatz square.

He led the responses as a prayer was read out for the victims of the 11 September attacks in the US five years ago.

Altoetting is known for its wooden statue of the Black Madonna, which attracts many pilgrims every year.

Pope Benedict was also due to visit to Freising, where he was ordained a priest and Regensburg, where he once taught theology.

The Pope hopes his visit - his first to the area since becoming pontiff in 2005 - will help stem the decline in church attendance in Bavaria, correspondents say.

Parents' graves

As his tour of Bavaria continues on Wednesday, Pope Benedict will spend the day privately with his brother, when the two will visit the graves of their mother and father.

The Pope has described the visit to Bavaria - a staunchly Roman Catholic region - as a joyous personal journey.

On his arrival on Saturday, he spoke of his love for his homeland, saying: "My heart beats Bavarian."

While he faces a warm welcome from many thousands of Catholics in Germany, some have been critical of his uncompromising condemnation of gay marriage and abortion, the BBC's David Willey says.

See Pope Benedict holding a mass in Munich

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